Become A Professional Photographer (Not Easy)

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by shuttercraft, Jan 13, 2009.

  1. shuttercraft

    shuttercraft TPF Noob!

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    I just joined the forum, yes that means another noob.....:D
    Introduction


    As a professional photographer I get many questions. Some of the most common questions are what camera is best to buy or how much money you can make with photography. These are not the questions you should be asking. There is a lot to think about before making the jump and turn this little hobby of yours into a job. By the end of this guide you should have an idea of the challenges you will face if you want to start a photography business.
    How I Got Started

    I am totally self taught, I am only 17 years old and I am making good money with photography. I started with my first camera at the age of 12, it was a old Polaroid that my dad gave me. I never went anywhere without that little camera! Today I have came along way from shooting with a little Polaroid and I now own a Canon 5Dmk2. This camera was a big investment, I worked drywall five days a week for a year to buy this camera and some studio gear! I teach photography workshops for the Southern Oregon Guild and my local high school. I live on my own now, my house is a huge remodeled restraint building. This place is two a story complex and the top floor is my photography studio. I live in the bottom, I worked with the owner of the building to turn the bottom into a house. I make most of my money on weddings and portraits, but I do lots of photography for myself as well.

    Why did I get started in photography?

    I guess I just love photography, doing what you love will make you happy! I have a extreme case of ADHD and photography is one thing that keeps me of sound mind. I feel like this is something that I want to do for the rest of my life.
    Is this something you really want?

    Before you make the choice to become pro sit down and think about it first. Photography is hard to make a living at, you will struggle for a wile before you will start to see any kind of money coming in! You might be thinking, “If a 17 tear old kid can do it then I can to!”. I have two things to say to you, first off I got lucky with photography because I have a few friends that are already in the photography industry. Sometimes it is not what you know but who's butt you kiss.:greenpbl: The second thing you need to know is you may lose interest in photography if it is your job. Photography sucks when you are stuck doing boring jobs that are not interesting to you.
    Before you go out and buy that $3,000 camera make sure this is what you want to do! So many people jump in head first just to find out that they just invested a lot of money into the gear for nothing.
    Where Can I learn more about photography?

    One way to learn more is to take a good class or workshop about photography. There are some great classes and workshops that are on the cheap side. I suggest taking classes on lighting, the camera, editing, and most important take a good business class. If you do not know the fundamentals of running a business things will become challenging for you. It does not matter if you take the best photos in the world, if you have no idea how to run your business you will fail! If you do not have the money for classes do not be discouraged, I have not taken one single class on photography. I worked for a friend that was into commercial photography, he set a foundation for me and I went from there. You can do the same thing, call around to all the photographers in your area and let them know you would love to work a s a assistant. You may have to work for free for some time but it is worth it!
    There are many good books out there that teach you the basics you will need to know!

    Best Business Practices for Photographers


    John Harrington’s “Best Business Practices for Photographers,” is a great book if you want to learn about the business side of photography. John Harrington has built a photography business that has been successful, with income having risen ten-fold since he started. He is a teacher that can communicate to an audience. He has spoken in the past at courses and meetings of The NPPA’s Northern Short Course, The White House News Photographers Association, Smithsonian Institution, Corcoran School of Art and Design, American Society of Media Photographers Capital Region, University of Maryland, Northern Virginia Community College, Trinity College, and the Northern Virginia Photographic Society. He has worked for over 16 years as an active photographer in Washington DC and around the world, working with both editorial and commercial clients. Editorially, his credits have included the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report, The National Geographic Society, USA Today, People, MTV, and Life. For corporate and public relations clients, John has successfully placed images with the wire services (Associated Press, Reuters, Gannett, Agence France Presse, and UPI) over three hundred times. Commercially, John has worked with well over half of the top fortune 50 companies, and even more of the top 500. Ad campaigns for Seimens, Coca Cola, General Motors, Bank of America, and Freddie Mac, to name a few, have been seen worldwide.
     
  2. modlife

    modlife TPF Noob!

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    Congrats on your business, man. I know how hard it can be at 17 to be taken seriously. You sound a lot like I did, although possibly a little more composed (no pun intended) at that age.

    When I was your age I started a production company and put on my first concert in Detroit - with over 3000 in attendance. I bought a firehouse and opened a 21+ club (all at 17). I then moved to a loft in Nashville and put on shows there(my only neighbor was John Cougar Mellencamp's son if it says anything) The next year I found out really quickly that "easy come, easy go". I blew somewhere in the neighborhood of $100k the year before I had some things out of my control happen and put my company in too much debt to recover. I ended up without a pot to piss in. Be diligent, be smart, do things your own way, but save for rainy day and INCORPORATE.

    Now, after 8 years of bouncing job to job, I've decided to get into photography...the fame won't compare, the money probably never will (when did any of you last walk from a shoot with a duffle bag stuffed with $30k in $20bills?).

    I'm sure I'll do alright...As for you, seems like you're doing well - good luck to you.
     
  3. jlykins

    jlykins TPF Noob!

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    Just curious but how did you move out on your own when you're only 17? Not trying to knock you or anything. I just thought you had to be 18 to sign any kind of legal document or anything like that for a lease, rent...
     
  4. shuttercraft

    shuttercraft TPF Noob!

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    Doing photography professionally =

    80% Business
    20% Photography
     
  5. shuttercraft

    shuttercraft TPF Noob!

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    The wonderful gift of emanstapation...:lol:
     
  6. modlife

    modlife TPF Noob!

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    When I did it, I was legally an adult in Michigan...at 17
     
  7. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    Welcome to the forum! Let's see your portfolio.

    Love & Bass
     
  8. shuttercraft

    shuttercraft TPF Noob!

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    I am currently working on my site, My old one was flash (to slow).
    I am making a HTML based site and gallery that will be up soon.
     
  9. NateWagner

    NateWagner TPF Noob!

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    well, also not to knock him, but the 5dII has only been out for a few months, and he didn't earn it via his photography, he earned it through working dry wall.

    He says he mostly does weddings and portraits, which is fine, but did he start doing them before he got the 5dII? or has he just been doing this "professionally" since he got this equipment (and if prior, then why did he earn the money to do it through drywall, and if after then he's only been going for maybe 3 months)

    I understand that doing drywall is hard work, but I will have to wait and see before I'm impressed about his professional photography career.
     
  10. abraxas

    abraxas No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    :er:
     
  11. shuttercraft

    shuttercraft TPF Noob!

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    I did drywall because I had to work part time in photography, I was not able to register my business before I was 16 because I got emancipated at that age. My first camera I worked with professionally was a canon 20d that the Southern Oregon Guild gave me. The canon 20d is now broken because it got dropped into water by a friend of mine in the guild.

    I think I could consider my self professional because I do big commercial work for all the big artists in Southern Oregon through the Guild. I have traveled to the pipeline masters in Hawaii and filmed the event with the commercial photographer I know. I quit working drywall jobs, at first it was hard because I was not making the best money I could. Things got better when more money started coming in, the money from photography feeds myself, my girlfriend, my horse, my dog, and pays most of the rent and bills!

    And 90% of that drywall money went into buying Soft boxes, flashes, reflectors, light meter, pocket wizards, new computer and so on... If someone get a business loan to start there business does that mean there not business people? I had access to all this gear before through another photographer. I got all my own gear because I was tired of working around times when he could borrow it out to me.

    If you still consider me not professional then that is fine, sometimes its hard to take a 17 year old boy serious.

    Thank you for all your feedback!
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2009
  12. 93rdcurrent

    93rdcurrent TPF Noob!

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    I moved out when I was 16 and that was 20 years ago. Started working when I was 12 washing dishes in a restaraunt. You'd be suprised what a smart person can accomplish regardless of their age... not saying I was necessarily that smart.
     

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